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Daniel Lippel (guitar): Resonance
Mario DAVIDOVSKY (b. 1934): Synchronisms #10 for guitar and electronic sounds (1992)
Nils VIGELAND (b. 1950): La Folia Variants (1996): Cadenza – Sonata – Dances
Elliott CARTER (b. 1908): Shard (1997)
Soonjung SUH (b. 1971): Garak (2003)
Judah E ADASHI (b. 1975): Meditation: Three Episodes from William Styron’s Darkness Visible (2000): Requiem: For Fallen Artists – Paris: Wanderjahr Revisited – The Stranger: Cosmic Loneliness
Peter GILBERT (b. 1975): Ricochet for guitar and electronics (2002)
Daniel Lippel (guitar)
rec. HUSEAC studios, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, January 2 – 5, 2004 and July 19, 2004

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Daniel Lippel is a New York-based guitarist, who is intensely committed to challenging contemporary music. He performs both as a soloist and in different groups so far afield as the Zvi Migdal Tango Ensemble and Mice Parade, an indie-rock group. He also collaborates with many composers; besides those who appear on this disc: names like George Crumb and Aaron Jay Kernis. The list of his teachers includes David Starobin, Jason Vieaux, David Leisner and John Holmquist, of whom especially David Starobin has played an important role as his mentor. Contemporary music is unfortunately mostly relegated to specialist festivals and minor venues. The major record companies mostly fight shy of anything written by composers still alive. It is to be hoped that this brave project will pay dividends in the end, for although all the music on this disc was written within the last fifteen years it should be readily accessible even to non-specialist listeners or guitar freaks. What is needed is an open mind and open ears.

Apart from using my mind and ears I have also culled information from the booklet notes, where in several cases the composers are quoted. My only regret is that the designer of the booklet, has not – as so often is the case – been able to withstand the temptation to print the text in white against a brownish background. It might look stylish but readability is low. But there my complaints end. The text, when I had found my magnifying glass and a suitable spotlight, is illuminating (sorry about the pun), the sound is well defined and realistic, quite closely recorded but still without the sort of extraneous noises that often afflict guitar recordings. The recording engineer – and also co-producer with Daniel Lippel – is Peter Gilbert, who is also the composer of the music on the last track on the disc.

Although written during roughly the same period the music here is nicely differentiated, each of the composers having an individual voice. It also seems that none of them is a guitarist and that may be one reason for the successful results, thinking more in terms of music as opposed to guitar music. The oldest of them, the doyen of American music, Elliott Carter, is represented by a short piece (less than 3 minutes), composed for David Starobin in 1997. It is filled with pleasant surprises and rhythmic vitality, swinging violently before, in the end, it dissolves into thin air. Here Carter very decisively marks the end of the composition with a very earth-bound full stop.

Mario Davidovsky, born in Argentina, who has been one of the fore-runners in the field of electronic music, combines a pre-recorded and altered tape with the live guitar. This piece was also written for Starobin and the use of unvarnished guitar sounds against the processed guitar sounds from the tape gives the music a feeling of unity. The electronics do not enter until halfway through the composition and before that the music flows in a lyric-melodic vein but spiced with violent outbursts of powerful chords and percussive effects. Fascinating!

In Nils Vigeland’s La Folia Variants the well-known, late Renaissance theme is used, in the composer’s own words, "more as a point of departure rather than a foundation". It is a quite extended work in three movements, where the central Sonata is powerfully contrapuntal while the concluding Dances are more lyrically reflective, the dance elements appropriately more in the line of the stylized dances of the baroque than the more flexible and rhythmically more intense dances of later periods.

Seoul born Soonjung Suh uses elements from traditional Korean music which he dresses in modern harmonies. Garak, meaning Melody, is partly an introverted composition but in the middle section also highly virtuosic.

In Judah E Ardashi’s Meditation, loosely based on the first three chapters of William Styron’s Memoir, the silences between notes sometimes seem just as important as the notes. People of today are very often unfamiliar with silence but to me it seems that the moments of afterthought occur in the silences.

Just as Davidovsky’s Synchronisms, which start the programme, Peter Gilbert combines the guitar with electronics, but uses them quite differently. In Ricochets, a premiere recording like most of the contents on this disc, we experience a constant combat between the electronically-produced sounds of the modern industrialized society and the solo instrument, which for its survival prepared with a pencil stuck between the strings at the fourth fret and tin foil being wrapped around the neck of the instrument, which is also differently tuned. The human mind obviously has to adjust to the technological surrounding and the composition seems to end somewhere in outer space. We don’t really know whether the instrument gets the last word, but to my ears at least the last chord of the guitar lingers ever so little after the electronics have died away. Hopefulness? Daniel Lippel writes "resignation". Whatever, it is the composition – and the whole disc – is thought-provoking and stimulating. Much of the music is extremely demanding for the guitarist and I can’t imagine it being better played.

Some people I know refuse to listen to music by other composers than those who have been dead for at least 100 years. This disc is not for them. Everybody else should definitely find this – as I said earlier – thought-provoking and stimulating.

Göran Forsling

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